A year ago today – 2nd September – the world was shocked at the sight of little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey after the boat his family were trying to escape the nightmare of Syria in sank in the Mediterranean. An outpouring of sympathy and concern followed with the British public demanding that the government do something to help refugees especially the children.
One year on I was shocked to the …core again when a couple of weeks ago I visited the Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp and met dozens of young unaccompanied children living in terrible conditions unable to leave and reach the safety of Britain because of government inaction despite the fact that these children were entitled to leave due to having family already in the UK or met the requirements of the Dubs amendment that the government signed up to back in May.
Meeting these children in such terrible conditions, some as young as nine and ten, was heartbreaking. They were in immediate danger telling me how at nights fights broke out in the camp and they were extremely frightened. All they wanted was somewhere safe to sleep at night and be able to go to school. One young 14 year old Afghan boy who had been in the camp the longest had taught himself English and had high aspirations to be a doctor if only he could get out of the camp.
Along with other Councils Ealing is willing to take some of these children. The great work being done by Citizens UK and Safe Passage UK mean that they are ready to leave if the government just gets its act together. Yes Councils like mine are facing big financial challenges and we also need more local people to step forward to be foster carers for these and other children like them but it can not be right to walk by on the other side of the road and leave these lone children in such terrible conditions. In memory of poor little Aylan Kurdi we must act.